Gov. Roy Cooper announced Wednesday that North Carolina got approval from FEMA to provide housing for residents without a stable home who may need to quarantine in response to a COVID-19 infection or who are at high risk of severe illness because of the virus.
State leaders are searching for dormitories, hotels, trailers, or other facilities to house:
- People who test positive for COVID-19 and need to be isolated.
- People exposed to COVID-19 and identified by a health care professional as needing quarantine but not hospitalization.
- People needing social distancing as a precautionary measure, particularly for high-risk groups such as people older than 65 or with certain underlying health conditions.
ABC11 reached out to several state schools in the Triangle. NC State, NC Central and UNC-Chapel Hill said they not received requests to retrofit any of their respective dorm rooms.
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UNC-Charlotte has been called upon and is on standby for a final decision.
UNCC officials said they are prepared to use six residence halls and can take in at least 2,000 people if needed.
Leaders are also calling on hotels to participate in the program.
"I think it's going to be really important in terms of slowing the spread of the virus," said North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen.
The federal government, through FEMA, will pay 75 percent of a room's cost and then the state will pick up the remaining 25 percent.
"North Carolinians without stable housing still need places to go if they are have a mild case of COVID-19 or need to quarantine after being exposed to the virus. These types of alternatives will help people who have no other safe options to self-isolate or social distance while we slow the spread of this virus," said Cooper in a written statement.
ABC11 has not been able to confirm that any hotels in the Triangle are participating.
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The Hampton Inn and Best Western Plus, both on Pence Avenue in Goldsboro, are opening their doors on coronavirus patients.
ZMC Hotels owns the locations and has been converting rooms.
Sales Director Jenn Kimbrough said staffers have been trained to serve patients. Disinfecting stations have been set up on both properties and there are now oxygen-enrichment devices for those who need additional breathing support.
She said the rooms will be used as recovery centers.
"So, what that means is one, somebody is no longer considered critical and they need to leave the hospital to free up that bed space, but they're not necessarily ready to go home," Kimbrough said.
The company said it's working with area hospitals to start transitioning patients.
"They can come and stay with us, and what we're doing is we're providing three full meals a day to those patients so they don't have to leave their room so that they can adhere to the strict isolation policies that have been recommended," Kimbrough said.
Other hotels in the company are targeting healthcare professionals, first responders and government agencies by offering a space where they can "Shelter-in-Peace." Those hotels have strict protocols for cleanliness including isolated HVAC systems to ensure rooms do not share air with adjacent spaces.
They also have sneeze guards at front desks, antibacterial hand sanitizer at hotel entrances and common areas and a room turnover procedure that includes sterilization of each room with heat treatments up to 135 degrees for three hours.